If you take into consideration some of the strangest looking costumes in the whole history, you can never fail to notice one of the plague doctors going back to the 17th century. This costume that includes a black outfit with the bird mask and long beak gives you a dark feeling, probably because they were dealing with death daily. After you see this image, you immediately think of something that isn’t pleasurable. To some people, this image of the plague doctor is enough to make them struggle, but for others, the plague doctor is a cool and unique image.
In this modern time, there is a lot of tattooing, and there is no surprise in the fact that people get the plague doctor tattooed on their bodies. Just like any other human being, you are probably wondering what it means or why someone would decide to get that tattoo on their body. Moreover, the majority of people cannot understand the meaning of the image of a plague doctor and its origin by only looking at it.
Plague Doctor Tattoo Meaning
Lots of people consider the plague doctor tattoo as a symbol of death and darkness. Just like in the case with the costume, the most critical element of a plague doctor tattoo is the mask. Back in 1348, these masks were typically worn by the Italian doctors. The reason why these masks had long beaks on them is that they were filled with herbs, spices, and dried flowers to fighting the fictitious idea that you could catch the plague through the air.
The reason why people see this tattoo as a symbol of something dark and terrible is the dark color of the mask and outfit, which serves as a representation of the darkness and terror of the Black Death, which is what they called the sickness. This sickness was responsible for the deaths of a vast number of people and making them feel hopeless.
In most of the cases, you might see people who are fans of darkness and horror wearing this tattoo. Even though this tattoo is a representation of death, some people only choose this tattoo for its unique look, and we would have to agree with them.
Plague Doctor Tattoo Variations
The fact that a plague doctor has a precise look is the reason why there aren’t many varieties of the tattoo. Nonetheless, we still see people using different tattoo styles to either soften the view or make it more terrifying. For instance, a new school tattoo of the plague doctor instead disarms the viewer, so there isn’t such a negative connotation to it. Moreover, the new school style can make things look “cute.” However, those people who are more interested in a darker feel might go with a realistic style or a trash polka style tattoo for the plague doctor.
When it comes to the different look of the tattoo, we frequently see a full-body tattoo of the plague doctor or a tattoo of the mask itself. Just like it was previously mentioned, the mask with a beak is the most identifiable part of the plague doctor, so it’s no surprise that people choose only to get the mask as the tattoo. The doctors would sometimes wear a hat to protect from contagion, and that is the only other part of the costume that people might be familiar with.
Why a Bird Mask?
There is a lot of sense in the aromatics in a plague doctor’s mask, which was a very innovative idea in a time when medical science was quite limited. But we have to wonder about the reason why the plague doctor’s mask was shaped like a bird. Without question, the mask had a very stylish look, and it’s interesting to ask ourselves what was the reason behind it. What was the reason for these people, who in a time when everyone was dying, were looking to make a fashion statement?
Superstition is the answer to our question. During that time, it was believed that birds started the black plague. In other words, people caught a disease from a bird. In this sense, people thought that the biggest birds that existed were responsible for that. Since always, crows are considered as a symbol of death. In some mythologies, they were thought to carry souls to the underworld.
Having this in mind, the plague doctor was likely the only one present for a lot of people’s last moments. Being dressed as a crow would take on a special implication in that case.
About the Plague Doctor
The town was responsible for hiring the plague doctors, and their only responsibility was treating patients who were suffering from the plague. These doctors were also known as “community plague doctors.” The plague doctors from the Netherlands and France worked without medical training and were known as “empirics.”
The majority of the plague doctors in the 17th, 18th, and 19th centuries wore the beaked mask that later on becomes the symbol of the plague doctor image. The purpose of the masks was to protect them from airborne pathogens and putrid air. The masks were stuffed with herbs, flowers, and spices in the beak.
In 1620, Charles de L’Orme created the unique costumes of these doctors. These outfits were used initially in Naples but spread throughout Europe later on. The suit was designed for protection, and the overcoat was waxed and light. The mask the doctors wore had a nose shaped like a beak and glass eye openings. They also were known to carry a cane to help with the examinations of the sick people without having to touch them.
This is not a common and widespread tattoo design. But we can easily say that this is a motif with powerful and robust symbolism and history. The meanings behind this tattoo design and the design itself can be incorporated with many different tattoo projects. The specific and dark story behind this motif it’s good for us because it’s going to make is think where and we can use it in our tattoo designs. So you need to get yourself informed and, of course, think before you ink.